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FAQs - "B" Agents

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Clostridium perfringens

What is Clostridium perfringens?

Clostridium perfringens are spore-forming bacteria that can be found in soil, feces, and the intestines of healthy people and animals. Clostridium perfringens are also often found in raw meat and poultry. The bacteria often cause food poisoning, but can also infect wounds.

How is Clostridium perfringens spread?

Eating foods that are served after improper storage can lead to infection. After cooking, small numbers of the organism may still be present. These can grow and produce toxin when the temperature is kept between 70° and 140° F. and air and moisture levels are right. For example, this can occur when foods that are cooked in large quantities are then held at room temperature for a prolonged period of time. Clostridium perfringens food poisoning is more common with meat products and gravies. The bacteria can be found in uncooked meat and poultry. It can also be transferred to food from stool bacteria if proper hand washing is not practiced.

What illness does Clostridium perfringens cause?

Clostridium perfringens most often causes food poisoning that results in sudden, watery diarrhea and abdominal pain. Usually there is no fever and no vomiting. On very rare occasions Clostridium perfringens can cause a more severe infection that causes the intestinal tissue to die and results in an infection of the blood. Wounds that become contaminated with Clostridium perfringens can result in tissue decay.

How is Clostridium perfringens infection diagnosed?

Clostridium perfringens is initially diagnosed based on symptoms. Laboratory confirmation is made by finding high concentrations of Clostridium perfringens in food or stools.

How is the illness treated?

Usually no treatment is needed, other than taking steps to prevent or treat dehydration.

What can be done to prevent Clostridium perfringens infection?

Be sure to wash your hands before preparing or serving foods and after handling raw meat or poultry. Meat and poultry based foods should be cooked thoroughly. Clostridium perfringens grows best between 45° and 140° F., so it is best to keep hot foods hot (above 140° F.) and cold foods cold (below 40° F.). If you have a large portion of food leftover, divide it into smaller portions not over three inches deep to refrigerate so it cools quickly. Foods should be refrigerated immediately and not left at room temperature to cool. Prepared food should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours. Reheat foods to at least that 165° F.

Find the PDF version of this FAQ in the Zebra Manual.